Every year more and more packages of small group curricula are marketed to churches under the pretense of helping pastors to do their job better. A popular theme this year is apologetics, and there are several products to choose from. Lee Strobel is broadcasting his “Investigation Faith” seminars, and his small group curriculum will be released this Fall. Strobel also endorses Garry Poole’s Seeker Small Groups (which is also endorsed by Nicky Gumbel, of The Alpha Course). Outreach Training’s Mark Mittelberg, who coauthored Becoming a Contagious Christian with Willow Creek’s Bill Hybels, encourages pastors to purchase their resources in order to get “key sharp lay leaders” to perform apologetics ministries, among other things.1
It seems that nothing has been left to chance, or the Holy Spirit, at Outreach Training; they have even chiseled four “laws” of outreach ministry, with several codices for each. The first law, according to Outreach, requires churches to create an “identity” by using the marketing technique of “branding.”2 Once the church designs a marketable image, they move on to work the sections in law number two which cover how to attract visitors. The first section in this law is titled “Doing Marketing God’s Way,” and it includes a particularly horrible take on the Pentecost, and advises that:
Churches and ministries should examine the communication channels (or media) available to them and strategize effective ways to use them for the Kingdom in their own communities.3
There seems, always, to be interspersed in these money making programs some talk about building something for the Kingdom, to lure the unlearned into thinking they are being extended an opportunity to construct an edifice to commemorate their meritorious sacrifices; if only to have it displayed as a small brick in the wall of the celestial city to come. All of this to be gained, claim the authors, by looking to the world’s method of marketing to know what to do. After all, this is the section on marketing, but it raises the critical point.
Are pastors allowing this shameless merchandising of the saints under their care because they really do need help doing their job; because they don’t know how to do it? What else to conclude but that too many young seminary graduates are actually psychology majors stopping over for the time being while they get up nerve to hang out their own shingles in practices elsewhere. Ambitious young men who are after more respectable and higher paying counseling jobs so that they can live in the houses they want to live in, and drive the cars they want to drive. Unless, of course, they could get the marketing right in one of these churches and build attendance into an income tsunami they could ride to prosperity on.
The authors of these programs counter that apologetics is some specialty ministry requiring their expertise and (well paid) assistance. They clamor that orchestrated attacks are mounting from the atheists, and time must be spent by pastors studying their arguments and crafting rebuttals. Yet, all atheism boils down to only one argument, and it is the easiest to rebut using only a book that pastors should already have in their possession.
The only thing that would establish atheism as the truth of the universe is the fact of Darwinian Evolution; and it is a theory that is almost effortlessly demolished, proved to be a universal lie, using only the first two chapters of Genesis. Are there not so many such men as are called pastors, who have faith in God and His word, who could teach from the first book in the Bible? Is it true that the best course for men in saving souls is that they should vex themselves by steeping their minds in the convoluted reasoning of reprobates and unregenerate men?
This is a digression of the worst sort. No such valuable time should be liberally applied to these pursuits, and especially not by pastors who admit, by their temptation to purchase these sordid professional development programs, that they lack familiarity with the Bible itself. Here is acquaintance on the subject of persuading those who would seek God, and what needs actually exists for supplementing the gospel. Open the book and read, even from the beginning. For our Lord spoke on this subject: “And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luk 16:31).4
1. Katherine T. Phan, “Apologists Ask Churches to Step Up Response to Militant Atheism,” Christian Post, February 13, 2008. http://www.christianpost.com/article/20080213/31176
3. “Doing Marketing God’s Way,” From Outreach, Inc. Products Division. http://www.outreachtraining.com
/documents/DoingMarketingGodsWay.pdf. (accessed February 20, 2008).
4. This from our Lord’s account of two certain and particular men who died and received their separate and eternal reward, and here He quoth Abraham.